Archives: February 2015

As I hope you know, last year, The Basilica Landmark was presented with an incredible challenge: an anonymous donor offered The Basilica Landmark an unprecedented $2.5 million matching challenge gift. The conditions of the grant were that new donations of at least $1000 would be matched, as well as increased gifts from current donors. The goal was to make it to the $2.5 million mark by the end of 2017.

Then, a few things happened.

  • First, The Basilica’s Facilities Committee created a spreadsheet indicating all the work that needed to be done around The Basilica campus for the next ten years. Critical needs were identified, and a ten year plan of action was developed.  
  • Second, we identified a few projects from this plan and approached you, our parishioners, asking for your support to help restore, preserve and advance The Basilica of Saint Mary.
  • Finally, people responded generously. In fact, your response and acts of faith were so clear, that we reached our goal of meeting the matching challenge grant two years ahead of schedule. This response will enable us to invest five million dollars in our campus over the next few years, allowing us cross off a few projects on our list. So far, repairs have included the removal of water-logged insulation above the ceiling in the church. This insulation was retaining moisture and not allowing the plaster to dry out. We were also able to replace the 1917 boiler with a new hot-water heating and cooling system in the church and school.

So you may be wondering, where do we go from here? And to that I would say, the work continues.

This year, The Basilica Landmark will continue to make improvements around our campus using the funds from this challenge. Most significantly, we will be making necessary improvements to the Reardon Rectory.

The Reardon Rectory was originally designed as a residence for five priests and a housekeeping staff. It also had guest rooms for visiting priests. Today, it is the center of much that goes on in our parish. It houses nearly all of our staff and ministries, as well as meeting rooms. With our growing need for additional space around our campus, this year The Basilica Landmark will convert the unfinished space on the 4th floor of this building to offices and art/archival storage space. We will also be adding central air conditioning and sprinklers to the entire building at the same time. Additionally, we will also add an ADA compliant restroom.

These are much-needed improvements. Not only will we be able to house nearly 4,000 pieces of art and archives in a temperature controlled, safe environment, we will also be able to serve you, our parishioners. 

And then, with your support, the work will continue. The Basilica Landmark is working closely with our facilities committee to continue to prioritize the repairs and renovations that are necessary to maintain our beautiful Basilica and its campus, as well as create and maintain spaces for our growing parish. While there is much work to be done, I am excited at all that we have accomplished so far. 

I am well aware that all of the above is possible only because of the ongoing support of you—our generous donors and parishioners—who believe in the importance of preserving, restoring and advancing The Basilica of Saint Mary. As your pastor, I want you to know of my great gratitude for your support and commitment. It is a blessing for our parish.  


Downtown Choral Festival

Seven downtown Minneapolis church choirs and nearly 400 combined voices joined together February 15 for the ninth biennial choral festival.

Entitled, "May we be your Music," the festival was woven around the sections of the Mass.

A new commissioned piece, "All the Beautiful Names," by Minnesota composer Timothy Takach with text by Michael Dennis Browne served as the Credo of the Mass. 

Participating choirs included the Basilica of Saint Mary, Central Lutheran, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist, Plymouth Congregational, Saint Mark’s Cathedral, Saint Olaf Catholic, and Westminster Presbyterian. 

Take a look at the photos.

Photo provided by: 
Elyse Rethlake
Photo provided by: 
Elyse Rethlake
Photo provided by: 
Elyse Rethlake
Photo provided by: 
Elyse Rethlake
Photo provided by: 
Elyse Rethlake

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 

On the second Sunday of Lent we always read one of the accounts of the Transfiguration of Jesus.   Since this is year B in our three year cycle of Lectionary readings, we read from the Gospel of Mark.   (We read from Matthew in year A and Luke in year C.)  Mark’s account of the Transfiguration immediately follows the first of Jesus’ three predictions of his suffering, death and resurrection.    These predictions were meant to remind Jesus’ followers that he was not an imperial or conquering Messiah who had come to restore Israel to a place of power and prominence in the world.   Rather, Jesus led by example, and it is through his suffering, death and resurrection that he would set aright the relationship between God and his people. 

Coming as it does immediately after Jesus’ first prediction of his suffering and death, the Transfiguration gives Peter, James, and John a picture of the glory to come.  These three were often singled out among the other disciples for special moments with Jesus.   The figures of Moses and Elijah represent the “law and the prophets” two important voices in the Old Testament.   The “dazzling white” garments would have accentuated the fact that this was a heavenly vision.  

Our first reading this Sunday is the story of Abraham and Isaac.   God has put Abraham to the test by asking him to “sacrifice” his son Isaac, “your only son, whom you love.”    Abraham responded to God with total and unconditional trust.  As a result, God declared that “because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly………”    This story reminds us of another Father who “did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for the sake of us all………”  (These words are taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans. 8.32, which is our second reading this weekend.)   

Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1.  Can you remember a “transfiguring” moment(s) in your life ---- a time when for whatever reason you felt God’s presence and grace?
2. Transfiguring moments are gracious gifts from a loving God and while we might like to stay in them, (“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here.   Let us make three tents.”) we are not able to do so.  Why do you think that is? 
3.  God sometimes asks a lot of us, but God also blesses us abundantly.   Where have you experienced God’s abundant blessings in your life?   

One day a friend of mine left his home early in the morning to attend the funeral of a neighbor. The deceased was a husband, a brother and a father. Driving home after the funeral my friend wondered what it might feel like to lose one’s father. That very afternoon he was forced to face that very reality as his own father, very unexpectedly died from a massive stroke.

When the news of his father’s passing spread, family and friends started to gather in his house. Sitting around the kitchen table they shared stories. They laughed and cried together. Suddenly my friend got up and left. To no-one’s surprise he ended up at the local supermarket. He gathered an assortment of foods to prepare dinner for those gathered in his home. When he approached the checkout counter he heard a familiar line, “paper or plastic?” He looked up and his eyes paused on the name badge of the checkout clerk. The name badge read: Hope. And hope he did.

We, Christians are a people of hope. No matter how dark our days or dire our dilemmas, we hold on to hope. Hope allows us and even almost forces us to go on when we think it impossible. Hope promises us light at the end of any tunnel of darkness. Hope not only provides us with the willingness to live but offers us life itself.

We, Christians are a people of hope because we believe in Jesus Christ who went through the darkest darkness of death in order to show us the brightest light of life. His resurrection is our invitation to hope.  

Sometimes we are tempted to give up on this hope. Every morning as I read the newspapers and every evening as I watch the news I am struck by the pain and suffering that we inflict on ourselves and on others, both here and abroad. Where are we going? When will all this end. What can we do?

The season of Lent is an antidote to a dangerous spiral of despair and depression which often leads to a kind of paralysis of indifference. The season of Lent invites us to approach the pain and problems of our world anew, with a deep sense of hope rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. The season of Lent encourages us to face our fears and challenge all that defaces humanity.

Most importantly, the season of Lent has the power to fill us with the Spirit who makes us cry out: “We can do better than this! We can be better than this! We will do better than this! We are better than this!”

I often dream of a world where everybody’s name is Hope. May it be soon.


Join us to explore our faith Fridays in Lent at The Basilica.

Mass will be celebrated at 6:00pm in the Saint Joseph Chapel. Stations of the Cross will begin at 7:00pm in The Basilica.

Lent evolved out of the preparation for baptism. Those preparing for baptism were known as catechumens. This word comes from the Greek word which means “to instruct.” A catechumen spent several years preparing for baptism. A sponsor walked this journey with them and helped them to transform their lifestyle to become more like Christ. Catechumens attended Liturgy of the Word with the rest of the Christian community, but when it came time to share the meal, they were “dismissed” because they were not yet members of the community through baptism. 

Many of you may have observed this “dismissal” of our own catechumens at the 9:30am Mass. Following the homily, the presider calls them forward to send them forth to “Break Open the Word” together. A facilitator accompanies them to another room as the Liturgy of the Word is continued with them. They listen to the Gospel proclaimed again and enter into a sharing of faith around the gospel, which concludes with intercessory prayer. This experience of “Breaking Open the Word” is both powerful and deep. To listen to our catechumens, many of whom have never been immersed in the Gospels, share their insights and how they believe God is calling them to live, is nothing less than inspiring.

Our RCIA class is made up of several groups. Our catechumens who have never been baptized, our candidates for Full Communion in the Catholic Church who have been baptized in another faith tradition, and the candidates for Confirmation who have been baptized Catholic but not raised in any faith tradition. There is also a sponsor who journeys with each of them and attends all the sessions, retreats and rituals. Lastly, we have a dozen team members. Each Tuesday, we have 70-80 people at The Basilica as a part of this process.

Like our ancestors, our catechumens and candidates have completed a substantial period of formation and are now being asked to discern if they are responding to God’s call in their desire to seek initiation in the Catholic Church. We have shared the beauty, truth and wisdom of that which we profess in the creed with them and now they must listen in their hearts for the voice of God.

This weekend they spent time together on a retreat which culminated at the 5:00pm Mass where they celebrated the Rite of Sending. We accept and applaud their courage and conviction and send them to our Bishop with our affirmation of their sincerity. Our presider will invite them to sign the Book of the Elect as a symbol of our support and love for them. 

Our community then sends them forth to the Bishop for the Rite of Election to be celebrated on Sunday at 1:30pm at The Basilica. All the catechumens and candidates from the Archdiocese gather together, half at the Cathedral and half at The Basilica, to celebrate the Rite of Election. Bishop Lee Piche, in the name of the entire Church, will accept the catechumens and those seeking full communion with us and exhort them to continue and intensify their journey of conversion in preparation for their reception into the Church at Easter.

And, like our ancestors, the “Elect” will now enter the period of prayer and purification for the Easter sacraments which we call Lent.

Your role in the process of initiation is essential. Your acceptance by your involvement and attention to the rites has had a significant impact upon them; they have shared how deeply moved they feel by your support. We ask that you keep them in your prayers. At the doors of the church are cards with their photos and names on them. Please take one or more and pray for them. You also can communicate with them by writing them a note of encouragement and placing it in the collection basket with their name on it noting “RCIA.” 

We are so blessed to be experiencing so many who want to join our faith because they have witnessed the way you live it out in your own lives. Thank you for being such a credible witness of God’s love for us all.

Ash Wednesday services will be held at The Basilica at 7:00am, Noon, 5:30pm, and 7:30pm. A soup supper will be available at 6:30pm on the lower level.

There are plenty of places to park but please allow yourself extra time to find parking.

Free parking
Free parking is available on 17th Street. This street will be available for one-way, northbound traffic only. Parking may also be available in the lots to the west and north of The Basilica school.

Handicapped Parking
Available in the Cowley lot off 16th Street and throughout The Basilica campus, as marked. Please display your permit.

o    Parking lot under the freeway (west side of church, entrance located off 17th Street) 
      o  $4.25 charge on weekdays before 5:00pm and $2.00 after 5:00pm; cash only
o    Minneapolis Community & Technical College Ramp (east side of church, entrance located off Laurel Ave) 
      o  $5.00 for all-day parking; accepts credit cards

Click on the icons on this interactive map to see exact details on parking locations and costs.

For this Sunday’s readings, click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser. 


This Sunday we begin the season of Lent.   Each year on the first Sunday of Lent we read an account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.   This year we read Mark’s account which is the shortest.  It doesn’t have any of the details that are included in Matthew and Luke’s account.  We are told simply that “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.  He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him.”  


Despite the lack of details in Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation, the point is clear.  Jesus is like us in all things, but sin.   In the desert he experienced real temptations, but unlike us he did not give in to those temptations.   The forty days that Jesus remained in the desert recalls the forty years that the Jews wandered in the desert for forty years after they left Egypt.  


Our first reading this weekend is from the Book of Genesis.  It is the story of the new covenant God made with Noah after the flood.  God tells Noah:  “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you;  I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”   The rainbow, then, was a sign that “………. the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”


For our second reading this weekend we read from the first Letter of Saint Peter.   In it we are reminded that “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.”  


Questions for Reflection/Discussion:


1. Where do you experience temptation in your life?


2.  What helps you to overcome temptation?


3.  Where and/or how are you being led to God?   


Many years ago I came upon a church dedicated to Saint Valentine. Apart from the usual Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I was not used to seeing so many hearts displayed in a church. These ranged from the doily kind adorning the bulletin board to the hearts carved into the heart-shaped granite baptismal font. If I hadn’t known any better I might have thought a heart to be the attribute for Saint Valentine. And yet, contrary to common belief and despite the recent onslaught of red heart-shaped boxes filled with mediocre chocolates, it is not.

Why all the hearts? And what is it about this obscure saint that is supposed to send the hearts of the romantic sort all aflutter? The meaning of his name, derived from the Latin word valens meaning worthy, strong and powerful may do it for some but surely not for all.

A quick search for Valentine reveals that the Catholic Church venerates not one but twelve saints named Valentine, three of whom are said to have been martyred on February 14. Among those three, two were martyred in Rome and one was martyred in the Roman province of Africa. Of the two who were martyred in Rome one was a priest while the other was the bishop of Terni. Father Valentine is said to have been martyred in the second half of the third century. The official history of the diocese of Terni mentions that Bishop Valentine was martyred while visiting Rome on February 14, 273. Some have suggested that both men were actually one and the same person, a claim which can be made because we know close to nothing about saint or saints Valentine.

In 496 Pope Gelasius, who established the feast of St. Valentine on February 14 admitted as much saying that St. Valentine ought to be reverenced though for reasons known to God alone. Because St. Valentine is cloaked in near perfect obscurity he suffered the same fate as many other obscure saints as was removed from the official Roman Calendar of Saints after the Second Vatican Council. However, his name is still inscribed in the Roman Martyrology, the official list of Catholic Saints. This means that churches can still be dedicated to him; people can venerate him and his feast may be celebrated when no other higher ranking saint is to be celebrated on that day. In the United States we celebrate Saints Cyril and Methodius, 9th C. missionaries to the Slavs on February 14, not St. Valentine.

As far as the connection between Valentine and the hall-mark romance he has come to represent, there simply is none. As a matter of fact the attribution of love is to the date (February 14) rather than to the saint. Its origin pertains to birds rather than humans. During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds found their mate by February 14, i.e. Saint Valentine’s Day. Because of this belief St. Valentine’s Day was thought a perfect day for romance, also for humans. A well-known reference to this may be found in Chaucer’s funny poem "The Parliament of the Fowles." 

Once this connection was made, stories about Valentine’s commitment to love quickly were attributed to him. According to one of these stories he was put to death because he performed weddings for Roman soldiers while it was against the law for soldiers to be married. This infuriated the emperor and thus Valentine is said to have met his unfortunate fate.

The one question remaining pertains to the custom of sending written “valentines” to one’s “valentine.” This is rooted in the medieval courtly love custom of writing love notes and poems to mostly unattainable love interests. By the 18th C. this courtly love custom and the Valentine movement had intersected and given rise to our current valentine customs.

So, are we to celebrate St. Valentine or not? Celebrate of course, but it is always good to know what it is one celebrates. And if you plan to donate one of those heart-shaped boxes, please humor me and do yourself a favor by filling it with Belgian Chocolates.

I am sure you can’t wait to learn what I have to say about St. Patrick.



After a recent presentation a young man walked up to me and simple said: “It does not matter whether a priest is conservative or liberal, during the consecration he is just a priest.” He quickly modified his statement and said “well, not ‘just’ a priest, of course, but you know what I mean.” Then he simply walked away. The statement surprised me since I neither had spoken about the Eucharist nor about priests, be they conservative or liberal or anywhere in between. And yet, I did know what he meant: what binds us together is stronger than that which sets us apart. When Christ comes in our midst there is neither male nor female; neither young nor old; neither gay nor straight; neither rich nor poor; neither over-educated nor under-educated. We are all children of God and part of the Body of Christ.

This strong belief we have as Catholics stands in stark contrast with our day to day experience. When I read certain catholic blogs and the reactions to the blogs I often have to stop reading because I am embarrassed by the anger we at times have toward one another. And I wonder what non-Catholics think when they read about us.

The same holds for all Christians. It is surprising, to say the least how we think about one another and what we say about one another. And I wonder what non-Christians think about us.

And by extension, the same holds for all descendant of Abraham, Jews, Christians and Muslims who all believe in the one true God; and yet we kill one another in the name of that same God. And I wonder what non-Abrahamic descendants think about us.

And in the broadest sense, the same holds for all humans who are all created in the image of God and yet are so divided. And I wonder what God might be thinking about us.  

Division is what seems to be the characteristic of our existence. We identify with those who are like us in their appearance, in their faith, in their political adherence, in their familial situation.  And we distance ourselves from those who look differently, believe differently, vote differently, live differently. And there are many, many more people in the “different” camp than there are in the “same” camp. Worse, it looks like the “same” camp gets smaller and smaller as we find more and more difference that distance us from one another.

If ever we hope to rid our world of hatred, violence and war we will need to free ourselves of the lethal philosophy of separation and embrace the life-giving theology of encounter. We will have to tear down walls that divide us and build bridges that connect us. We will have to overcome our fears and ignorance and invest in courage and knowledge. This does not mean we have to lose our own identity and become like one another.  Nor does it mean that we have to give up those beliefs we hold dear.   Rather it means we have to welcome and accept one another embracing our differences as additions to the great and interesting tapestry that makes up our human family.

May every celebration of the Eucharist be an invitation to commit ourselves to celebrate what unites us, rather than what divides us. After all, what binds us together as Catholics, as Christians, as sons and daughters of Abraham and as adopted daughters and sons of God is stronger than that which sets us apart. Granted, love does take effort, yet so does hatred.